Playing with fire, Republican bigwigs want to take out Cruz

The think­ing goes as fol­lows: If Cruz loses Iowa, he peters out in New Hamp­shire and doesn’t pose a risk of fin­ish­ing in a re­spect­able second place. That al­lows the es­tab­lish­ment win­ner out of the Gran­ite State to build mo­mentum as the anti-Trump al­tern­at­ive. A de­cent num­ber of Cruz’s sup­port­ers, when asked to choose a second can­did­ate, grav­it­ate to Ru­bio. Polls show many more of Trump sup­port­ers, by con­trast, would sup­port Cruz. And even with Trump’s im­prov­ing fa­vor­ab­il­ity num­bers with­in the GOP, there are more Re­pub­lic­an voters who wouldn’t vote for him un­der any cir­cum­stances than say the same about the sen­at­or from Texas.

These strategists are look­ing at Trump’s in­creas­ingly bel­li­cose at­tacks against Cruz with glee. In their view, only Trump can suc­cess­fully put a dent in Cruz’s sky-high fa­vor­ab­il­ity among Re­pub­lic­ans, which is a pre­con­di­tion to block­ing him from the nom­in­a­tion.

But there’s one big prob­lem with the the­ory be­ing em­braced by many party pooh-bahs. It risks hand­ing the elec­tion to Trump on a sil­ver plat­ter—help­ing knock out his strongest rival while watch­ing help­lessly as more-mod­er­ate al­tern­at­ives blow each oth­er up in the pro­cess. The wish­ful think­ing be­hind such a strategy is that Cruz is ut­terly un­elect­able, while Trump is un­pre­dict­able enough to win a gen­er­al elec­tion. In real­ity, Cruz looks like an elect­able stand­ard-bear­er, while Trump could blow the party to smithereens.